Why, in particular, is your husband so angry?
It’s helpful to look at the specific reasons why your husband is angry. The reason to do this, of course, is not to blame him or yourself, because blame won’t do you any more good than it does your husband. He looks for blame. Make sure you don’t fall into the same way of thinking. It would only make you more like him and that is not the way to go.
When I say look at the reasons for your husband’s anger, I mean make sense of it from his point of view. Everything that we do has some purpose or intention, even though the intentions may be misguided or not the right ones to help us accomplish what we are trying to achieve.
In the case of getting angry, we can connect it to four specific desires
These desires are either: 1) To get something done, 2) to get something right, 3) to get along, or 4) to get attention. These are the basic four motivations found by psychological researchers Brinkman and Kirschner (2003). Although we all have these four motivations to some extent, at times of stress we care about one of them much more than the others. Which one depends on our personality. When your husband is angry, he is very stressed. And at that time, he is concerned with one of these desires more than the others.
It will help to know which desire your husband is typically concerned about when he is angry
For example, let’s suppose that your husband is trying to fix the car. But, instead of fixing it, he is getting increasingly upset. We can guess that in this situation, he is probably motivated both to “get it right” (get the car to work right) and “get it done” (so he can move on to something else). Unless you have some way to help him get it right and get it done, you had best stay out of his way. Interrupting him at this time may be a nuisance to him—an interruption of his goals to get it right and get it done. If he sees you as an obstacle to getting it done, then he will target his anger at you.
Match your communication to his motive
If he does get angry at you, then you can direct a question directly at his motives. For example, if you ask, “How can I help you to get this done?” or “What do you need to get it working?” he is likely to tell you. Other questions which emphasize the difficulty he is having, such as “What’s wrong with it?” or “Why can’t you get it working?” are something like pouring gas on a fire because it intensifies the frustration he feels. You may be trying to help him to be more relaxed, or to be emotionally supportive, but he will probably think of the talking as just taking time away from what he’s trying to do. So, leave him alone to do it. Bringing him a drink (coffee, juice) without staying to talk would be a nicely supportive action.
Another motivator for your husband’s anger may be his desire “to get along”
If he is trying to get along with you, the kids, or someone else, but it doesn’t go so well, he may become very angry. Especially if he talks about how things are “not fair” because he does so much for others and he just gets grief in return. People with poor social skills often have this kind of anger. Because they are ineffective at getting others to respond to them in a positive way, despite their best efforts, they find something wrong with the other person. It really is a kind of self protection. Either other people are messed up or they are. The angry person defensively and automatically believes it is others.
One final motivation for anger is the desire to “get attention”
Some people only get attention by being angry. Others get angry because they don’t get attention for other things. Whether it comes from their family background or genetics, the result is the same—some people need more attention than others. We all have a need for attention, but some men, when under stress, need more attention than others. Their anger will both be at the injustice of not receiving attention, and a way to force you to give him attention (even if it is negative attention).
Any attention at all is better than no attention for people who need it.
A very hungry person will eat from a dumpster; a person who strongly needs attention will take it from anyone. The roots of many affairs and other misconduct often leads back to a man or woman feeling unimportant in their relationship. If you can recognize these needs in your husband, you can see them as his desire to feel effective, connect with you, and get approval from you. These are very appropriate needs in a husband—when he goes about getting them met in a good way.
The lesson you MUST learn is just because he’s angry doesn’t mean it’s your fault
A wife is never to blame for her husband’s behavior or how he acts on his feelings. His anger is coming out of his inability to achieve a worthwhile goal. Even the worst of behaviors (e.g. affairs) are often motivated by simple and important human needs like getting attention. He is not likely to say that the reason for his anger is because of his inability to get something right, get something done, get along, or get attention. He is much more likely just to blame you. But, you can be one step ahead of him by understanding his motivations and using them to create a win-win that builds your relationship. Angry men don’t really want to be angry. No one enjoys being angry. Working with the forces that drive him will create solutions that draw both of you closer together.
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